Searching for a Job in the Current Environment

By: James Zaniello

Tips on how to step up your job search efforts and stand out from other candidates.

Many talented individuals at all levels are finding themselves between jobs for longer periods of time. This is through no fault of their own, but it is still often difficult to handle. Now that the job market is moving again, candidates must present themselves in the best manner possible in order to land their next opportunity.

Be realistic. Prepare yourself, intellectually and emotionally, for a longer search than you might have expected. Many highly qualified individuals are taking 12 to 18 months to land positions. Remind yourself that a long gap between positions is more of a reflection of external forces than a reflection on you as a person.

Work your campaign. More people are in the market than ever before. Individuals who are gainfully employed as well as those between opportunities are competing for available positions. The successful candidate will carefully and consistently work her job search as if it were any other campaign. Among all the variables involved in landing a job, the only one you can control is how you structure and execute your search effort.

Own your answers. Think about the questions you have been asked during interviews. Are there questions you consistently had a tough time answering? If so, practice those questions with a colleague. Employers are bound to ask what you have been doing for the past nine, 12, or 15 months, so anticipate the question and be prepared for it: "While searching for the right next position in a tough economy, I also took professional-development classes to brush up on new topics, engaged in volunteer work, and completed some consulting work in a variety of areas."

Research. Prior to going to an interview, do your homework. Too many candidates do not thoroughly research the association with which they are interviewing. Use LinkedIn to see who previously worked for the organization. Check the website, particularly in your area of expertise, and be prepared to mention your findings in your interview. Google the people you will be meeting with and the profession or issue served by the organization.

Be flexible. When considering salary and benefits, you should not take a salary cut that you can't afford. However, if the position is the right one for you, do not overlook it just because of a slight discrepancy in salary. Getting back to gainful employment after a prolonged job search is what's important.

Take care of yourself. Exercise helps keep your mind and body balanced. It gives you the time to think through your approach and releases your pent-up energy and frustration. This shows during an interview. The more relaxed you are, the better you will do.

Close the loop. After you land that new position, send a handwritten note to those who helped you the most, thanking them for their support and including your new contact information. Send an email to your broader network.

Give back. Help someone who is in transition, just as others helped you during your search.

The job market is getting stronger, but there are still more candidates than there are positions. For this reason, you need to step up your search effort in order to stand out from the crowd. Conduct a focused and meaningful networking campaign, write carefully crafted cover letters, and tailor your resume to each position. Send thank-you notes or emails after the interview. Taking these steps will bring your job search to a quicker close.

James Zaniello is president of Vetted Solutions. Email: [email protected]

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If you're looking for the next step in your association management career or looking for high-quality candidates to fill open positions at your organization, check out—the best source of association jobs and resumes. In addition to helping you find your next job—whether it's as CEO, director of technology, or membership coordinator—ASAE's career services department offers such services as executive coaching, resume writing, and more. For more information, contact Catherine Lux at [email protected].

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